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Top 5 Ways to Break a Lease

There are a number of reasons why you might want to break a lease. However, unless you are active in the military or a victim of domestic violence and need to abandon the property for personal safety, then it is a little harder to get out of this binding contract than you might hope. You may assume that if you need to move to another city for work that your landlord has to let you out without penalty, but this is not the case. Not to mention, you might think they will be understanding when you tell them that you are pregnant and need to find a bigger place, but do not count on it.

As with most contracts, there are penalties that you might face to break your lease. The goal is to get the least penalty possible, but do not be surprised if your landlord does not come after you for the full total for the remainder of the lease. If you really need to move, check out these five tips (before you hire a moving company) that should be helpful.


  1. Find Something Wrong

    In many cases, this is going to be absolutely impossible. If your landlord has always fixed problems promptly, and you have no documented complaints then even your lawyer may tell you there is no way you are getting out without penalty. However, if he promised to install a fence last summer, add more insulation before the winter, or get you new carpet and never followed through, then you may have a case. If you have had problems with a neighbor being disruptive and the landlord has done nothing to intervene, you may have a valid reason that will hold up in court. Obviously, if there is something seriously wrong with the property and the landlord has not fixed it then you have the legal right to vacate without penalty.


  2. Review Contract for Termination Clause

    If you are not comfortable reviewing your lease, contact someone at your local tenant’s rights organization or local legal aid office. You may be panicking for nothing. Many landlords today add an early termination clause in their lease to make it fair for the tenant; this decreases the risk of dealing with a huge surprise when they find a tenant simply vanished. Your lease may allow you to terminate with a 60-day notice for job relocation, major life change, or if you need to become the caregiver of a loved one.


  3. Sublet

    Okay, the first thing you need to understand is that subletting is not always an option. If your lease specifically says you cannot sublet, do not bother even trying. It is also important to note that you need to find someone you can trust completely because you will still be legally responsible for the property. The exception is if your landlord allows the new renter to apply, pay a security deposit, and sign their own lease. If you sublet, you also have to make sure the person will pay you on time so you can pay the landlord. You may want to consider having their rent due on a day mid-month to ensure you have it on time.


  4. Be Honest

    Your landlord may not be pleased that you are breaking the lease, but if you are honest about the reasoning and give them ample notice, you may be able to come to an agreement regarding fees. Besides, if you give 60 days and allow him to show the apartment and he is able to find a renter then he may not charge you extra fees. You can pretty much kiss your security deposit.


  5. Pay the Fees

    If you have tried everything you can think of and your landlord is still being unreasonable then you can stay and deal with living there until the lease is done, or pay the fees he is requiring to terminate. Some leases may have it clearly stated that penalties will not exceed 60 or 90 days of rent, however some may require you to pay the full balance. In this case, splurging a little on a lawyer may be in your best interest.